One 4 the Road mixes history, humanity, and Malört | Theater Review | Chicago Reader

One 4 the Road mixes history, humanity, and Malört 

The new play by Leonard House takes viewers inside a south side bar in 1972.

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Shepsu Aakhu

It's 1972 and Haskins' bar has been a fixture on the south side of Chicago for 30 years, passed down to Ray Haskins (Darren Jones) by his father, Big Ray, who laid every brick and installed every pipe in the shop. Malört takes pride of place on the shelf, and the names of those chosen few with a taste for it are carved into the wall—but everyone who comes through the door for the first time gets a shot as a rite of passage. Like every watering hole, it has its regulars: retiree Slocum (Donn Carl Harper) sometimes shows up at 8 AM for a beer, and busybody Lizzie (Tina Marie Wright, in a pompadour) sometimes locks the door for an extra pour. When JD Youngblood (Omari Ferrell), a soldier recently returned from Vietnam, wanders in, Ray welcomes him like family. Ray's bar is his home, and he's the loving master of it. But the world outside isn't so sweet, and Black and the Woodlawn Youth Coalition, as the local gang calls itself, have an insistent way of demanding "donations."

One 4 the Road, veteran actor and MPAACT company member Leonard House's debut play, directed by Runako Jahi, draws the specificity of time, place, and character with remarkable economy in a narrative that's heartbreaking and familiar—in other words, the essence of nostalgia. In combination with a pitch-perfect cast that develops each character's particular sheen in relation to the others, this play is rich in its sense of humans and history.   v

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